Thursday, October 11, 2018

Smoldering resentment: Walking tour will look at how volunteer firefighters in Alexandria, Va., dealt with Federal occupation during war

US military led this fire operation in Alexandria in 1863 (Library of Congress)

Before the Civil War broke out and hordes of Federal soldiers crossed the Potomac River to occupy the city, volunteer firefighters in Alexandria, Va., brimmed with pride and purpose.

19th century firefighter (Library of Congress)
Firefighting companies – Friendship, Hydraulion, Relief, Star and Sun, among them – maintained equipment and kept their fellow residents safe from infernos that could rampage through a row of homes or businesses in no time.

It wasn’t just about saving lives and property: The companies were part of the fabric of the community.

“They were involved in boosterism and came out for parades and such,” said Kristin Lloyd, acting director of the Friendship Firehouse Museum in Historic Alexandria. “If there was a fire, everybody in the community helped. We had laws on how many buckets each household had to have to fight a fire.”

Friendship, the oldest of the fraternal groups, was formed in 1774.

There was a lot of prestige in which company got to a fire first (mind you, the men ran – horses were not yet in use) or threw quenching water the farthest. A strong performance could get you written up in the local newspaper -- so there was occasional competition and raucous moments.

But those good old days faded quickly on May 24, 1861, a day after Virginia seceded from the Union. Thousands of Union troops poured in from Washington and turned the bucolic river port into a major military supply and hospital center. Martial law was declared. A curfew was enforced. And one very famous incident led to the first death of a Union officer in the conflict.

Suction pumper at Friendship Firehouse Museum (City of Alexandria)

Once some administration took hold and it became apparent it needed to become involved -- in part because so many able-bodied residents were gone -- the Union army took over firefighting in the city.

The 11th New York Infantry, known informally as the First Fire Zouaves, for a time took the lead.

While the military occupation did modernize firefighting – the Federals brought in the first two steam pumpers – it put a lot of locals on the defensive, requiring them to take an oath of allegiance to the United States or use a password to assist in putting out a blaze.

That uneasy relationship is the subject of the "We've Been Burned: Alexandria Firefighters During the Civil War" walking tour this Saturday. Participants will learn how the volunteer companies were treated and what happened to their firehouses, among other topics. The city tour will stop by four surviving firehouses in the charming downtown historic district.

Participants will learn that several of the volunteer companies disbanded by 1863, partly because so many members were fighting for the Confederacy.

Friendship museum (City of Alexandria)
But there was at least one other reason for the decline in the volunteer efforts, according to a history of firefighting in the city: “Company disbanded … due to destruction wrought by Yankees on equipment.”

The venerable Alexandria Gazette wrote glowingly about Federal troops and local firefighters harmoniously working together. But records kept by volunteer companies often painted another picture, said Catherine Weinraub, a museum aide for Historic Alexandria who will lead the biannual tour.

A Friendship notation speaks volumes about its members’ smoldering resentment:

"When a fire occurred the military assumed control of the fire apparatus and directed its action while old and efficient firemen were rebuked, annoyed [sic] and sometimes knocked down by men who were wholly ignorant of the mode of attaching to plugs or Engine or of judiciously using the pipe when a suply [sic] of water had been secured.”

Firefighting was a whole lot different

The United States has seen quite a transformation in how its communities fight fires. Following rudimentary “bucket brigades” during colonial days, volunteer companies sprang up, fostering a celebration of youth, heroism and camaraderie.

It soon became a business in some cities, such as in New York and Baltimore, where street gangs used firefighting as a way of fighting each other and to control turf. Insurance companies often had contracts with private or volunteer crews.

A colum written in 2011 for Huffington Post had this to say: “The way it functioned was the first club at the scene got money from the insurance company. So, they had an incentive to get there fast. They also had an incentive to sabotage competition. They also often ended up getting in fights over territory and many times buildings would burn down before the issue was resolved. They were glorified looters.”

Postwar Hydraulion volunteers (Alexandria Fire Department)

Lloyd said there was no evidence of such chaos in Alexandria. There are no known insurance company plaques on buildings, she added.

Alexandria was divided into four wards. Every station had its own bell. The closest person (to the fire) would ring the bell in the ward in which it was discovered. While there was an attempt to organize response by company, firefighters would rush to just about any fire after grabbing equipment at their firehouse (this was before they would be stationed around the clock in a building).

The fastest member of a company would run to a fire plug, or hydrant, and try to hold it until his colleagues showed up with equipment. That meant keeping other units from tapping in. “He is not going to let that happen,” Weinraub told the Picket.

Firefighting could be a dangerous occupation: In 1855, six members of the Star company and one with Friendship were killed in a warehouse wall collapse on King Street. The fire was the work of an arsonist. The tragedy hit the town hard.

Local boys were disenchanted

Six years after that tragedy, tension in Alexandria reached the boiling point over President Abraham Lincoln’s election and the secession vote.

Federal units, including the 11th New York infantry, were sent to the city, effectively ending the sale of enslaved persons while taking control of buildings and businesses that were of use to the Northern war effort.

Death of Ellsworth (Library of Congress)
“Alexandria is filled with ruined people; they walk as strangers through their ancient streets, and their property is no longer theirs to possess,” wrote George Alfred Townsend for the New York Herald in 1863.

The 11th New York was organized by Col. Elmer Ellsworth. “He thought firefighters would make good Zouaves,” said Lloyd. Many firefighters that served in the Union army were of Irish descent.

Ellsworth on May 24, 1861, became the first Union officer to die in the Civil War when he removed a Confederate flag from the roof of the Marshall House in Alexandria because it could be seen from the White House. The owner of the house gunned down Ellsworth before being killed by a Federal soldier.

While the men of the 11th New York Infantry knew how to fight fires, they were soon shipped to the front, leaving the duties in the hands of soldiers with a lot less passion and skill for the work.

“These soldiers were really bored and they didn’t know how to put out fires,” said Weinraub.

Local volunteers were angry because they had to meet so many conditions – including the oath of allegiance, badges, passwords and curfew limitations – in order to take part in firefighting. Sometimes they were just told to go home.

They grumbled about what became of their equipment. This notation was in the Friendship minutes book:

“The Friendship Suction and eleven sections of hose were conveyed to Fort Elsworth and there exposed for weeks to sunshine and rain, and when the Suction was returned at the urgent solicitation of the Company, it was so unsightly and unservieably [sic] that the Company was disinclined to incur any expence [sic] for its repair while subject to such abuse. The eleven sections of hose have not been yet returned, at portion being in use at the Provost Office and the rest at adjacent forts.” 

Quartermaster's Wharf during the war (Library of Congress)

All this came at a time when the city was teeming with soldiers and civilians who were meeting their primal needs, with venues that included saloons and houses of prostitution.

“There was a military governor. Troops were moving in and out, particularly in the beginning of the war,” Lloyd told the Picket. “They were pretty rowdy and rambunctious. A military governor came in and maintained better order.”

The Gazette did its best to keep the community up on the news and it painted a cheery picture of the cooperation between Yankee and local firefighters.

A January 1865 article described a blaze that broke out on a Royal Street frame house and spread.

“The U.S. steam engine No. 2, and the fire engine companies, Friendship, and Sun, were promptly on the ground, and deserve great credit for the efficient manner in which they succeeded in extinguishing the flames and preventing more damage than was done. The military police were present and prevented any loss of property from the burning building.”

(Alexandria Fire Department)
Columbia firehouse is now a restaurant

Major changes were on the way

Despite the strain and anguish of being occupied for four years, Alexandria apparently did not have a major fire during that time. And because it was within the extensive Federal defenses of Washington, there was no fighting and, thus, no civilian casualties.

After the war, the population ballooned to nearly 17,000 residents, many of them Northerners and freed blacks, according to a 2011 Washington Post article.

“The impact (of the war) on Alexandria took years to recover as a city, just as the (fire) companies themselves took a while,” Weinraub said.

Major changes were on the way. By the 1860s, with heavier and more expense equipment, and the need for horses to pull it, communities began establishing professional fire crews. Alexandria created its city department in 1866.

Hose reel at museum (City of Alexandria)

Most of the volunteer companies reorganized for a time after the war and later ceded the job to the city force. Friendship refused to join because its members wanted to keep their name.
“They went back to fighting fires (but) it was becoming less necessary as the city was involved,” said Lloyd. Friendship stopped fighting fires in the 1880s and the rest of the companies eventually dissolved.

Today, the Friendship Firehouse Museum has equipment, including a giant hose reel, and information on the volunteer companies, among other topics. The building got a boost during the 1950s and was deeded to the city in 1991. It is supported by the Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Association.

“They are involved in helping maintain the preservation of the firehouse and they think of it as their heritage and they support other causes related to firefighting,” said Lloyd.

The city still uses this Relief station (Alexandria Fire Department)

Of the other three firehouses on the sidewalk tour, two are private homes and one houses Columbia Firehouse, a restaurant on St. Asaph Street. It got its name from the Columbia Steam Fire Engine Company, which succeeded the Star volunteer group.

The city has a fire station next to the old Relief firehouse, which is one of the residences. It used to feature a tower to dry canvas fire hoses.

The tour is held in the spring and fall.

“We are just hoping to bring more attention to the museum, but also the larger subject of firefighting history and how it is very relevant,” said Lloyd. “All of it informed how firefighting is done to today, how cities are formed today, how codes are formed today.”

The tour lasts from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13. It begins at the Friendship Firehouse Museum, 107 South Alfred St. The cost is $6 for adults and $4 ages 10-17.  Reservations are required, as space is limited. Call 703-746-4994 or 707-746-3891.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Donation was music to their ears

Two sisters in search of information about a Civil War ancestor have gifted the historical society in Adams, Mass., with an instrument he carried through the Civil War. Judge Bullard enlisted as a private in H Company, 27th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers, in August 1862. He re-enlisted in January 1864 and was later captured by Confederates and held as a prisoner in March and April 1865. • Article

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Someone stole Civil War revolvers, cartridge box and other artifacts, leaving a Virginia battlefield group mad as hell about it

(Winchester Police Department)

Nothing looked out of sort last Saturday morning when the staff at Kernstown Battlefield in Winchester, Va., opened the visitor’s center that formerly served as a tractor barn.

But as they prepared for a Civil War-period ball that evening, a volunteer noticed several artifacts – including revolvers, cartridge box and a Confederate double-barrel shotgun -- were missing in display cases.

The discovery of the theft has set off a campaign by police and the Kernstown Battlefield Association to get the word out so that the items don’t end up at pawn shops or in the hands of private buyers.

“We are heartbroken and furious,” Susan Golden, vice president of the nonprofit group, told the Picket on Thursday. The items came from private collections – including a board member’s and others from a friend of the member.

“They only took Civil War artifacts,” said Golden. “They took only what we they wanted. They knew what they were doing.”

Visitor's center in background (KBA photo)
(Winchester Police Department)

Among the purloined items are an 1861 North Savage .36-caliber revolver, an 1860 Colt 4-screw revolver, an 1857 Smith patent carbine, a US Navy 1863 Navy leather primer pouch and an 1858 Remington .44-caliber revolver.

While a Winchester police news release cites the value of all items at about $5,600, Golden says $10,000 is a more accurate figure. Golden said none of the artifacts were directly linked to the two Civil War battles fought in Kernstown.

The site was closed for a few days before the discovery, but Golden believes the heist may have occurred on Friday, Sept. 28, or early Saturday.

The visitor center’s main doors are reinforced with bars, but the thieves must have used a ladder to access the second floor, disable the motion detectors and go downstairs to steal the artifacts, said Golden.

The thieves had to pull out display cases, she said. “They put everything back absolute perfect.”

Pritchard House (Kernstown Battlefield Association)

The association operates the 400-acre battlefield, the visitor's center/museum, artillery annex and the marquee Pritchard House (above), which contains artifacts relating to the four families that lived in the home from 1854 to 1945. Most of the programming is related to the Civil War, though a few other events, such as highland games, are held on the property’s fields.

“I have had really good volunteers,” said Golden. “If you are a huge Civil War buff they can tell you movement by movement. If not a Civil War buff, they can give you an overview.”

The first battle at Kernstown, in March 1862, was a rare Union victory over Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. The second clash, in July 1864, was a significant Confederate win during the Valley Campaign.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Council wants more time to review depot bid

Saying they need more time to review the proposal, members of the Dalton (Ga.) City Council voted 4-0 Monday night to table a $300,000 bid for the Civil War railroad depot at 110 Depot St. "We only recently received the proposal and have been having some discussions," said City Council member Denise Wood. "We need to do some more due diligence, ask some more questions. We need a few more details about what Barrett Properties wants to do there." According to the company's proposal, the renovated depot would house two distinct businesses, a restaurant in the northern section and a bar in the southern section. The projected opening would be in December 2020. • Article

Saturday, September 29, 2018

How salt helped win the Civil War

Salt is easy to overlook today, but before refrigeration, it was essential for preserving food and curing leather, not to mention that a minimum amount is necessary for a healthy diet. Union officials realized early in the Civil War that salt was the key to feeding soldiers and civilians in the South. As soon as Southerners built their own facilities to make salt, they became military targets. • Article

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Owner offers a $20K reward for Henry rifle stolen from National Civil War Museum

(Photos: Harrisburg, Pa. police)

A $20,000 reward has been offered for the recovery of an 1860 Henry repeating rifle that belonged to President Abraham Lincoln’s first secretary of war and was stolen from a Pennsylvania museum.

The private collector made the offer for information that leads to the gun, Harrisburg police announced Monday. Pennlive.com said the rifle, engraved with Simon Cameron’s name, is valued at between $400,000 and $500,000.


The rifle and two revolvers taken from the National Civil War Museum in February 2016 were presented to Cameron, secretary of war from March 5, 1861, to Jan. 14, 1862.

While the revolvers were owned the city, the rifle was on loan as part of the “Guns and Lace” exhibit sponsored by the National Rifle Association. The thief used a sledge hammer to break a window and display cases.


WPMT-Fox43 said one of guns is a .44-caliber army revolver, while the other is a .36-caliber Colt 1861 Navy revolver.

Police asked that anyone with information about the rifle should call them at 717-558-6900.

Patrons at Atlanta museum will get engineer's view of restored locomotive Texas when exhibit opens in November

A view of the locomotive during an August tour

The steam locomotive Texas, a star of the Great Locomotive Chase and an emblem of Atlanta’s meteoric rebound after the Civil War, will be back on public display Nov. 17 for the first time in more than three years.


Patrons at the engine’s new home at the Atlanta History Center will enjoy a hands-on experience: They will be invited to step up to the cab and get the engineer’s view of the 1856 locomotive.

(All photographs by the Civil War Picket)

For the past 16 months, the Texas has been preening before motorists who glide past the history center on West Paces Ferry Road. The fastidiously restored engine, built for the Western & Atlantic Railroad, is lit up at night and rests in a new glass-fronted gallery that will lead patrons to the Battle of Atlanta cyclorama painting when it opens in February 2019.

Both artifacts were housed for more than 85 years in Grant Park, just south of downtown Atlanta. That building closed in summer 2015 after the city and the AHC announced the move of the treasures to the Buckhead neighborhood. The Texas arrived in May 2017 after getting a $500,000 makeover in Spencer, N.C.

The accompanying 1886 circular painting is undergoing a significant restoration in a new AHC wing that has a gallery connecting the Texas to cyclorama exhibits.

AHC officials announced last week that the Texas will be the cornerstone of “Locomotion: Railroads and the Making of Atlanta,” a permanent exhibition opening in November. They want to tell more than the story of its role in the Civil War, a switch from interpretation at Grant Park.

(Civil War Picket photos)

“The detailed exhibition accompanying the Texas will interpret the major role railroads played in transforming Atlanta into the transportation hub and commercial center it is today,” the AHC said in a press release. “The exhibition captures Atlanta's beginning, in 1837, when a surveyor drove a stake into the ground in a North Georgia forest previously inhabited by Native Americans. The stake marked the end point for the Western & Atlantic Railroad designed to run north to the Tennessee River near present-day Chattanooga.”

Texas will lead to cyclorama gallery
The new Rollins Gallery has the look of a railroad repair shop, with exposed steel girder columns and a brick wall.

While the Texas is most famous for running down a load of Union raiders and spies in April 1862, AHC officials have long stressed the engine tells a much larger story of the postwar growth of the city, and they decided to paint it in an 1886 scheme, rather than the bright colors it wore at Grant Park -- in part because its surviving parts date closer to that year than the Civil War.

Jim Wilke, a railroad historian in California who has done extensive research on locomotive and tender paint schemes, lauded the restoration of the Texas and the decision to interpret it two decades after the Civil War. "The parts of the engine that were original and running around in Georgia in the 1860s you could put in the back of a pickup truck."

Like the locomotive General, the object of the chase, the Texas was saved (in 1907) from the scrap heap. The General presides at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Marietta, Ga. The Texas and General are the sole surviving locomotives of the Western & Atlantic, which played a large part in Atlanta’s early development.


“The Texas locomotive symbolizes Atlanta’s longtime relationship with railroads and the city’s importance as a hub for people, commerce, and ideas. No artifact can be more important for telling Atlanta’s origin story than this Western & Atlantic locomotive,” AHC CEO Sheffield Hale said in a statement.

New Jersey locomotive maker Danforth, Cooke & Co. manufactured the Texas in the 4-4-0 design (4 leading wheels, 4 driving wheels and 0 trailing wheels).

Wilke told the Picket that the engine is one of a few remaining from the 1850s and helps tell the evolution of American railroads. By the time the Texas was retired, it was dwarfed by larger and more powerful locomotives, he said. "This change was happening all over the nation."

(Civil War Picket photos)

The exhibit will include a circa 1900 waiting room bench, signage from a 1949 Pullman sleeping car, a 1940s operating signal from Atlanta’s Terminal Station, gate signs and Western Union telegraph signage and clocks.

Patrons also will learn about the experience of working on the railroad, segregation on the rails and the science and mechanics of a steam locomotive, the AHC said.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Great Locomotive Chase depot in NW Ga. gets one bidder, who says 'glory days' will return with new food, bar areas after overhaul

(Courtesy of Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation)

The sole bidder for a Dalton, Ga., building that once served as a Civil War-era railroad depot said it’s possible that a portion could be used for a small museum.

Locally based Barrett Properties has offered $300,000 and plans to have the depot, built in 1852, divided into restaurant and bar space, vice president Barry Slaymaker Jr. told the Picket in an email.

The city of Dalton, which contracted with the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation to market the old Western & Atlantic depot downtown, put the property up for sale for $500,000.

The city required bidders to submit a written preservation plan and abide by a signed rehabilitation agreement. The Trust's primary goal is seeing that historic features in the building are saved.

The Dalton Depot -- which needs extensive remediation and upgrades inside -- had its moment of fame on April 12, 1862, when Northern raiders who had commandeered the locomotive General in Big Shanty, above Atlanta, chugged toward Chattanooga, Tenn., intent on destroying parts of the railroad.

The pursuing locomotive Texas picked up a telegraph operator who rushed to the Dalton depot and wired Confederate troops ahead in Chattanooga. Although not all his message got through, Edward Henderson’s alarm sent troops toward the track. The Andrews Raiders were captured near Ringgold when the General ran out of steam. They had accomplished little.

The Daily Citizen newspaper earlier this week first reported on Barrett Properties’ bid. The Trust is reviewing the bid, officials said. Ben Sutton, historic properties coordinator for the group, would not comment further to the Picket.

(Courtesy of Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation)

City Administrator Jason Parker told the Picket he plans to present the proposal to the mayor and council at an Oct. 1 meeting. “The City Council reserves the right to accept or reject bids, but if this bid and proposal are accepted at that meeting, the city will move as quickly as possible to close on the property with the bidder,” Parker said in an email.

"While it’s still under review, the preservation and rehabilitation plan proposed by Barrett Properties for the Dalton Depot property appears to be sound, and would ultimately lead to continued preservation of this historic gem,” said Parker. The plan is for two tenants to be inside the property.

The 12,100-square-foot brick building was “a pretty high-style example of Georgia depot architecture” and has Greek Revival features, Sutton previously said. It features stone lintels, brick pilasters and door entablatures. The depot is the oldest commercial building in the city and once provided passenger and freight service.

The trust marketed the building through its revolving fund, which it says provides alternatives to demolition or neglect of a historically important property. Sutton says the building, which is owned by the city, is pretty intact. It last served as a tavern, which closed in late 2015.

The depot’s southern end retains features interior ticket windows and other rail service features. Slaymaker said that location, which used to hold the waiting room, would be ideal for a museum.

The Trust hopes a buyer donates a conservation easement so that the group can ensure historical features are protected and conduct an annual inspection. Slaymaker did not comment on whether Barrett Properties would consider doing so.

The developers say they plan to bring the depot back to its “glory days.” They told the Daily Citizen the city is undergoing a renaissance downtown that will see additional housing, hotel and entertainment options.

“We will be working closely with the Georgia Trust, State of Georgia HPD (Historic Preservation Division) and the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission to ensure that we take all of the proper steps to rehabilitate to Department of the Interior standards,” Slaymaker told the Picket.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Civil War and African-Americans: Kennesaw Mountain battlefield's action since focus groups urged park 'to tell our story'


In February 2011, the Picket reported and wrote about an initiative by Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park near Atlanta. It wanted to expand its story, particularly about people of color. The park, in a cooperative agreement with the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era at Kennesaw State University, produced a report on African-American attitudes toward the Civil War.

Entitled, “The War of Jubilee: Tell Our Story and We will Come,” the effort stemmed from focus groups with nearly 60 members of organizations that had primarily African-American membership. It was shared with other national parks. Some participants wanted more exhibits and programs on slavery, Reconstruction and black troops who aided the Federal war effort.

We wondered whether anything resulted from the initiative and made an inquiry this summer. Below are actions the park said it has completed to address some of the recommendations made from the focus groups. With the exception of a few revisions, the material is presented as written by the park staff.

-- A new and updated park film was completed in September 2013. The focus was to be more inclusive and highlight roles of African-Americans (specifically, Emma Stephenson, a former enslaved person who served as a nurse for the Union army, and Austin Gilmore, a former enslaved person, who enlisted in that army, served as a stretcher bearer and was mortally wounded while rescuing a soldier at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain).

Monemia Johnson panel (click to enlarge; courtesy of NPS)

An exhibit at the park museum tells the sad story of Monemia Johnson (above), a freed black in nearby Marietta, Ga. Yankee cavalrymen in November 1864 sack her restaurant and home, ostensibly for supplies. Both sites are burned in a fire set by the Federals when they evacuated Marietta. She learned later her husband, James, had died in Nashville. Johnson eventually receives $246 in damages, well below what she sought.

-- Members of a USCT group gave formal programming on two occasions, before and after the CW150th. For various reasons, these groups have not returned; finding a somewhat "local" group was very challenging; low participation on their part; and the cost involved for their programs). 

-- The park hosted a social media art exhibit which highlighted various users in the Georgia national parks for the "Find Your Park' campaign.

-- The park hired an African-American intern in the fall of 2017 to specifically conduct oral interviews of African-Americans within the community. He started first with slave narratives (which was a recommendation from the focus group) for background information before talking with community members.   

Lorenzo Bright conducted oral interviews with local African-Americans within the community. We put a call-out to the community to gather historic materials and stories through a press release and via our website and the park's Facebook page, but had no response. The intern’s work is highlighted on the park website and can be found here.

The intern and a park ranger worked together to create a facilitated dialogue program for high school students as a way to discuss slavery. This is developed, but has not been presented as of yet.

Robin Robinson
-- Another intern was hired to conduct an oral history project focusing on veterans. The focus was to include various minorities (women and African-Americans) in the sharing of their stories. Among those interviewed was former Navy Petty Officer Robin Robinson. Those interviews can be heard  here. 

-- Park staff worked with a local elementary school to develop a play to highlight ALL roles during the Civil War (this included USCT, slaves, women, and children).  This play was performed at the park in the spring of 2018, and we anticipate it being performed again.

-- Park staff has worked with the NPS Harpers Ferry Center to develop new waysides, one of which will highlight stretcher bearers, some of whom were African-American. These should all be complete and installed throughout the park by December 31, 2018. Waysides are interpretive signs (typically with illustrations or photos, and text).

-- Park staff and a summer teacher ranger teacher have recently developed new curriculum-based programming to discuss slavery as a cause of the Civil War. This will be available this school year 2018/2019. Marjorie Thomas, chief of interpretation at Kennesaw Mountain, said the program has been developed but not yet presented to any groups.

-- During the park’s CW150th, the NPS Kennesaw Mountain NBP sesquicentennial magazine entitled The Sentinel, showcased stories, researched and written by park staff, about African-Americans in the local communities. Additionally, park staff led the "150 Stories for 150 Years of Change" as a project to highlight (and curate) stories that recounted social change within the society. These stories were posted on the park's Facebook page.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Cemetery appearance: Neat or natural?

A group and the city of Muskego, Wisc., remain at odds over the upkeep of a city-run cemetery where three Civil War veterans are buried among 70 graves. The local Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War wants the plot kept neat and trimmed. But the city said the patch is part of a prairie and should retain its natural appearance. The dispute is the subject of a lawsuit. • Article

Friday, August 31, 2018

Restored coat back on display at school

What a long, strange trip it's been for Gloucester High School's once decaying Civil War era-coat. Now restored to its tailored, but still historically tattered Confederate gray self, it hangs handsomely ensconced in a museum-quality 3-D casing in a new place of honor in the Massachusetts school's atrium. The coat, which for decades had been displayed in a glass trophy case in the halls of the high school, was once owned by Albert W. Bacheler, a celebrated Civil War veteran who served as the school’s principal from 1883 to 1913. • Article

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

For $500K, and agreeing to protect historic features, a Civil War-era depot made famous by Great Locomotive Chase can be yours

The depot is the oldest commercial building in Dalton
Transaction window (Georgia Trust for Historic Prerservation)

A northwest Georgia city hopes a reinvigorated downtown, economic incentives and potential tax breaks will entice bids for a railroad depot that played a part in the Civil War’s “Great Locomotive Chase.”

Dalton officials have contracted with the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation to market the old Western & Atlantic depot at 110 Depot St. The structure, built in 1852, has a suggested price of $500,000.

The Dalton Depot -- which needs extensive work inside -- had its moment of fame on April 12, 1862, when Northern raiders who had commandeered the locomotive General in Big Shanty, above Atlanta, were chugging toward Chattanooga, Tenn., intent on destroying parts of the railroad.

The pursuing locomotive Texas picked up a 17-year-old telegraph operator who rushed to the Dalton depot and wired Confederate troops ahead in Chattanooga. Although not all his message got through, Edward Henderson’s alarm sent troops toward the track. The Andrews Raiders were captured near Ringgold when the General ran out of steam. They had accomplished little.

Ben Sutton, historic properties coordinator for the trust, told the Picket, “There are plenty of preservation-minded property owners that recognize the intrinsic value of buildings like this.”

The 12,100-square-foot brick building was “a pretty high-style example of Georgia depot architecture” and has Greek Revival features. It features stone lintels, brick pilasters and door entablatures.

The depot is the oldest commercial building in the city and once provided passenger and freight service.

The trust is marketing the building through its revolving fund, which it says provides alternatives to demolition or neglect of a historically important property. The space could be divided for office, commercial or restaurant use, including a coffee house or microbrewery.

Building needs a lot of TLC

(Photos courtesy of Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation)

The depot has had some hard times since its heyday. A 1977 nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places (which was awarded) said Dalton citizens were aware of its value but “concerned about the deterioration of the building.” At that time, it was being leased to a railroad.

According to the nomination form, “the depot might have been partially destroyed when Union troops entered Dalton and set fire to several buildings in 1862. It appears that the essential structure of the depot was not damaged and the restoration was confined to roof and interior repair. Since the ornamental brackets are stylistically later than the date of the rest of the building, it is likely that they replaced others lost in the destruction.”

The city-owned building later housed a tavern for about 25 years, but city officials closed the building in late 2015, citing conditions that “posed potential health hazards to the public,” including mold, according to the Daily Citizen-News newspaper.

A freight scale remains in area that once was a restaurant

Dalton put the building up for bid in 2017, but got no offers. According to the newspaper, a potential investor earlier this year said renovation could cost between $600,000 and $1 million.

Sutton says the building is pretty intact and its southern end retains features interior ticket windows and the depot features an old freight scale.

“There is deferred maintenance.” All systems, including sprinklers and HVAC, need upgrading. “There are plenty of worse-off buildings people will invest in,” Sutton said.

Depot office on south end of the building (Ga. Trust)

The city is requiring bidders to submit a written preservation plan and abide by a signed rehabilitation agreement. “They want to make sure its history is understood, appreciated and protected,” said Sutton. “Based on that (plan) we can tell if they are going to be treating the building appropriately.”

Trust wants to administer easement

The trust hopes a buyer donates a conservation easement so that the group can ensure historical features are protected and conduct an annual inspection.

Donation of an easement has tax advantages, said Sutton, and a buyer can be eligible for federal and state income tax credits through a certified rehabilitation of a National Register property.

View from the tracks in the 1970s (National Park Service)

A potential investor earlier this year was concerned about the easement, according to the Daily Citizen-News, but changes were made so that the trust, rather than city officials, would manage the easement terms.

John Davis, a member of the board of the Downtown Dalton Development Authority, told the newspaper: "Getting people downtown is important, and the depot is very much a part of downtown. It was a very thriving part of downtown for a long time, and we'd love to see it get back to that."

View of the west facade (Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation)

A property tour for potential buyers is set for Sept. 6. Bids will be opened on Sept. 17. The city reserves the right not to accept any bid, officials said.

Until then, Sutton says, the trust hopes a potential buyer thinks “pretty creatively about the space.”

(Photos: Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation)